Tasmanian davil

The most important inhabitants of Darvin´s crater

The largest living carnivorous marsupial in the world and a creature with many myths and superstitions; a loner indulging in mass feasts; a shy animal having an undeserved fiery reputation and capable of making eerie growls. This is the Tasmanian devil.

Tasmanian devil(c) Pavel Procházka Tasmanian devil(c) Pavel Procházka

Tasmanian devils are marsupials, i.e. a distant relative of the kangaroo. Currently they only live in Tasmania, a relatively cool and forested island some 240 kilometres from the Australian mainland. About three thousand to five hundred years ago, they also inhabited Australia. Their disappearance is probably due to the increasing dryness of the island continent and the spread of the non-native dingo.


Tasmanian devil probably owes its name to its unearthly screams, ears that can blush red, and to its indiscriminate appetite accompanied by seemingly fierce fights with its fellows. In reality, however, the devils are shy loners and their meetings are governed by a strict “etiquette”. A wide-open mouth is a signal that expresses uncertainty and is meant to avoid conflicts.


Devils can open their mouths to an amazing angle of 80 degrees and can crush bones with a single bite. In relation to their size, they probably have the strongest grip of any vertebrate, comparable to the much larger saltwater crocodile. This allows them to bite off large pieces of meat and take them away to a secluded spot, where they can eat in peace, undisturbed by others.


New-born devils (called “joeys”) weigh less than a quarter of a gram and resemble tiny embryos. They firmly attach themselves to the teats in the mother’s pouch, remaining there for several months. There are usually twenty or more siblings in a litter, but the mother only has four teats and therefore at most four of her offspring – those that have found a teat – survive the first few days.


Little devils grow fast. From birth to adulthood they undergo a 15,000-fold weight gain! Once they are too big for the pouch, the mother starts leaving them in a den, to which she regularly returns to suckle them. If she needs to move her offspring, she takes them on her hips or back. At the age of nine months, the devils become independent, at the age of two they are fully mature, and at the age of six their life is usually over.